fb - voice of agriculture
December 2004

Gearing Up for Opportunities in the 109th Congress


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

The 2004 election was an example of American democracy at its best. Not only was voter registration and participation at an all-time high, rural voters turned out and played a pivotal role at the national level. In the end, the election results provided continuity and an opportunity for progress on key agricultural issues. With the elections behind us, we can now prepare for the 109th Congress.

Farm Bureau will continue to reach out on a bipartisan basis to assemble a strong pro-agricultural agenda for the 109th Congress. I guess you could say we are chomping at the bit to start our work with the new Congress.

Ringing in the New Congress

There are several major issues on agriculture’s radar screen as we gear up for the new Congress. A chance to pass comprehensive energy policy is at the top. Increased energy costs in the 2003-2004 growing season have cost farmers more than $6 billion in added expenses to produce food and fiber for this country. With the new Congress, we have a real opportunity to pass an energy bill, which includes renewable fuels, that is good for all Americans.

Going hand in hand with energy is transportation. Farm Bureau will push hard for upgrading locks and dams along our river systems. It is not only in the interest of our farmers to have an efficient way to transport farm products, but it is in the national interest. A better transportation system on our rivers would cause a ripple effect of economic growth and job creation in rural America.

On the tax front, Farm Bureau will continue pushing for additional tax reform, particularly with the estate tax, otherwise known as the death tax. The opportunity for permanent repeal of the death tax is closer than ever. We must get rid of this erroneous tax that continually hurts farmers. We will also continue the pursuit of policies that lessen the tax load on farmers, create new opportunities to sell agriculture products abroad and recognize the positive roles of farmers and ranchers in conserving our natural resources.

Farm Bureau will continue to work on a pro-trade agenda – both with the president and both houses of Congress. At the top of the list is establishing a meaningful outcome for agriculture in World Trade Organization negotiations and extending Trade Promotion Authority. Congress must renew TPA in order to continue our work to win trade reform.

We are already working on concepts for the next farm bill. Our number one goal is to maintain the structure and funding of the farm bill through its expiration.

Celebrating Past Victories

We anticipate building on the successes of the last four years and in particular those victories we had during the 108th Congress, such as the American Jobs Creation Act which included important incentives for ethanol and biodiesel, a repeal of a WTO-illegal export tax break and a tobacco quota compensation that provides a fresh start for tobacco farmers and the rural communities they support.

Other victories included the Healthy Forest Initiative and the Jobs and Growth Reconciliation Act of 2003, which reduced the top capital gains tax rate from 20 percent to 15 percent, and the 10 percent rate to 5 percent, through 2007.

I truly believe there are bright days ahead. President Bush and the 109th Congress offer us an almost unprecedented opportunity to build a strong bipartisan agricultural coalition and a chance to win real reform in a number of areas critical to farm and ranch families.